In the piece, published by Fairfax in June, Sharma asserted that teachers work “hours closer to three-quarters of a regular full-time job”.
Sharma issued an apology yesterday, following widespread criticism.
Re my SMH oped on schools: I owe all teachers an unreserved apology. My main point was to Q whether school as structured serves needs of modern society. Comment about teachers unfair & unwarranted. I benefited from many hardworking + great teachers, as do my daughters. Mea culpa.— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) September 18, 2018
In response, the NSW Teachers Federation slammed the apology.
"Your comments denigrating teachers were no mere off-the-cuff remark. They were considered and written in an op-ed in a major newspaper. You didn’t apologise then, but now that those comments have caused you serious embarrassment, you offer a self-serving apology," the organisation wrote.
Among those to criticise Sharma's opinion piece was Wentworth ALP candidate Tim Murray, who wrote that teachers “continue to work hard into the night, preparing lessons, marking, assessing etc.”
After a teacher goes home they continue to work late into the night, preparing lessons, marking, assessing etc. I know my wife is a teacher. Teachers work hard. #wentworthvotes— Tim Murray (@Timpmurray) September 14, 2018
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi and political commentator Mike Carlton added their voices to the furore, with Carlton labelling Sharma’s comment “a gross insult”.
Remember when the Liberal candidate for Wentworth said teachers "were underemployed" and working only three quarters of a full time job?— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) September 16, 2018
Instead of devaluing teachers, we should recognise their work and pay 👏🏽 them 👏🏽 properly 👏🏽https://t.co/ERtHZRifOW
In which Dave Sharma, the new Liberal candidate for Wentworth, glibly asserts that teachers do “three quarters of a full-time job.” A gross insult. I am in awe of the devoted teachers at my son’s state public school. https://t.co/qSUbgQnS9C— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) September 15, 2018
More broadly, Sharma’s piece argued that the school day is too short and that school facilities are underutilised during the holidays, and that this puts unnecessary pressure on parents.
The story was published not long after Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming weighed in on the issue, arguing that teachers should work eight hours a day and get just four weeks annual leave.
Laming said that the work teachers do at home is “completely unquantified, invisible time”.
“There is just no evidence that the work they are doing at home makes any difference, and there’s no evidence that what they do at home is actually where you’d want a teacher focusing their efforts," he said.
Polls will open in Wentworth on October 20.